Now here’s where it gets important – what do search engines think of your content, and how will it rank?
“The web is like an ever-growing library with billions of books and no central filing system”, according to Google.
Search engines have many ranking factors for each query
Historically, a website is judged on how many backlinks (internal and external) the page and domain has. The most famous example of this was Google’s algorithm PageRank, which estimated the importance of a website or webpage by the number of links it had to it. From Google’s definition:
PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.
Google has since massively improved on this from the dawn of PageRank, introducing a huge number of factors, metrics and algorithms, covering website content, technical state and offsite performance, to determine how ‘good’ a webpage is.
Google tries to determine how well the page performs on all its ranking factors, which there are 1000s of.
Google has not, and will probably never, release a full list of their ranking factors.
However, they have kindly teased us with a few of them, with HTTPS being one of them, and now website speed (due to mobile-first indexation Google has pushed).
This will indicate to Google if it should rank highly or low.
All search results are localised in some form
Google and many other search engines always aim to bring the most accurate results to its users.
With search engines being so widespread and so integrated into daily life, people have expected it to bring the results they want. This entails considering location for users.
Essentially, this means that search engines will return different results for the same query based on the location of the user.
This can touch on a huge number of search results, differentiating between commercial and informational on the same query for different countries.
This means that your website will rank differently based on location – especially so for localised queries.
Queries are split by intent
Search engines can split results and websites into categories of intent.
For example, a transactional query will return results which will provide easy conversions/transactions for the user, and an informational query will return results which are informational/provide a lot of data for the user.
Google is especially good at doing this, with it being able to differentiate queries which are ‘university-level’ and ‘middle school levels’ and return appropriate results.
How does Google weigh and score your website?
Google weighs and ‘scores’ your website on its technical and content factors. This sometimes takes a long time to do, and some webpages can go days without being indexed onto the search engine.
Search engines will weigh your websites against other websites for the keywords the engine has determined it will rank for.
There are many factors that play into how well a site will rank, however, the technical factors are recently becoming more important.
Special Content Result Blocks (Featured Snippets)
Featured snippets are special content blocks which are found at the top of a SERP, typically before any organic results (and, of course, after the PPC ads).
These are typically only reserved for the best content Google can find for the specific query. It usually takes a lot for a website to achieve such a ‘status’.
Therefore, this can’t happen to your website out the blue; it requires a considerable amount of effort (usually).
Earning these usually takes a lot of optimisation on a website.
From a technical SEO perspective, this means ensuring that the content is practically ultra-accessible for Google to crawl and index, as well as ensuring that it has the right keywords and has good readability.